SAGE has applauded the draft recommendations of the Australian Government’s Diversity in STEM Review. We thank the Review panel for their work and for taking on board much of our feedback to the initial consultation.

The Panel has specifically recognised SAGE’s success in producing cultural change and accountability towards equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in STEM, and recommended that we continue to work with the academic sector, industry and the Australian Government to build on this success.

We are very supportive of all the draft recommendations, and are particularly pleased to see the following themes, which reflect the strengths of the SAGE framework, featuring strongly throughout:

  • intersectionality and the consideration of diversity other than gender
  • a coordinated strategy to ensure that barriers at every stage of the STEM lifecycle are addressed, and that initiatives do not duplicate each other
  • ensuring initiatives are evidence-based and subject to rigorous monitoring and evaluation
  • the long-term sustainability of change initiatives.

Our submission to the consultation emphasises the importance of continued investment in research to establish best practices and evaluate programs. The STEM sector needs better information to ensure that our programs meet the needs of the labour market and produce the best outcomes for people working in STEM. This Review offers an opportunity to coordinate meaningful, sector-wide metrics to measure progress.

We offer specific feedback on the following recommendations:

  • A central government office for diversity in STEM initiatives: We seek further clarity on the responsibilities, oversight and role of the office.
  • A sector-wide EDI strategy: We would welcome a strategic focus on actions and outputs while setting measurable targets.
  • Long-term funding: The timeframes required to engage in systemic change frameworks lead us to support the proposed 10-year minimum funding period.
  • Linking grant funding to EDI: We applaud the recommendation to and suggest possible criteria for assessment.
  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination: SAGE applauds the proposal to establish this as a form of scientific and academic misconduct.
  • Requiring organisations to show evidence of EDI performance: We welcome the proposal requiring organisations to demonstrate embedded EDI when seeking grants and other funding.
  • Compensation for employees doing EDI work: We suggest that organisations also minimise the burden on ‘diverse’ staff by ensuring that there are dedicated, qualified staff to lead EDI work.
  • Assessment of researchers’ performance: We support developing more equitable ways of conducting this assessment.

By stressing the need for a coordinated, strategic approach to EDI in STEM, the Review’s Draft Recommendations build on the success of the 2019 Women in STEM Decadal Plan and recognise that the Australian STEM sector has moved into a new phase of action on improving diversity and inclusion.

SAGE looks forward to responding to the needs of the sector as it moves into this new phase of maturity, by diversifying our services and deepening our advisory role as the experts on improving EDI in STEM.